Team Alinghi Vaults Into Overall Lead, While K-Challenge Sneaks Into Top Four In Both Races
The Defender of the America's Cup, Team Alinghi, showed it is still a force to be reckoned with on Friday with two strong races to take the series lead in the Valencia Louis Vuitton Act 3.
The BMW ORACLE Racing team also had two good performances on the day, with a second and third place finish, the former all the more remarkable for having to re-start for being over the starting line early. France's K-Challenge also punched above its weight today. Sailing a 2000-generation boat, FRA-57, Thierry PEPONNET'S team finished in fourth place in both races, and after a disastrous opening race to Act 3, his team now sits in fifth position. For BMW ORACLE and Alinghi, the day offered at least a partial answer to the many questions being raised in light of their 'weaker than usual' performances over the past week. In short, these are still two very strong America's Cup teams.
The leaders at the beginning of the day, Emirates Team New Zealand, had a spectacular opening race, and at that point, appeared to be running away with the series. With some of its main rivals starting prematurely in the opening race on Friday, Emirates TNZ streaked to its second victory of the Louis Vuitton Act 3. But in the second contest of the day, it was the Kiwis who were too aggressive at the start, and after re-starting correctly, Grant DALTON'S team could only manage a sixth place finish. The result leaves Team Alinghi one point clear at the top of the table.
BMW ORACLE Racing and Luna Rossa are both six points behind the Kiwis, with Luna Rossa getting the edge from the tie-breaking formula that favours stronger results in individual races. Whilst both teams have a second and third place finish, the Italians also can claim a fourth, while the Americans next best race is a fifth.
It wasn't a good day for the Italian +39 Challenge. Although the team managed a sixth place finish in the first race of the day, it was forced to abandon the second contest after one lap of the course with equipment problems. The team was trailing the fleet at the time.
Racing was initially postponed with the wind very shifty, despite being a full 12-14 knots. The breeze became soft and shifty in the first race, and although it regained velocity later in the afternoon, the shifts continued to make the race course a difficult challenge for the tacticians. Racing continues with two Fleet Races scheduled for Saturday afternoon.
Valencia Louis Vuitton Act 3 - Fleet Race 3
This race featured a remarkable start, with fully half of the fleet on the course side of the line when the starting gun fired, including three of the four top teams. Alinghi, BMW ORACLE, Luna Rossa and K-Challenge were all forced back to re-start, allowing the other four boats a nice head start on the proceedings. Emirates Team New Zealand took full advantage of the error by its rivals, flying up the course to a commanding 1:41 second lead at the first top mark. The Kiwis were never threatened from that point forward. Amazingly, Chris DICKSON'S BMW ORACLE recovered nearly all the way, picking up favourable wind on the left side of the race course and rounding the top mark in second place, with Alinghi just behind. K-Challenge, the other boat to re-start wasn't as fortunate, and rounded in sixth position.
With the wind easing, the fleet began to spread out. K-Challenge picked up another couple of positions, but Luna Rossa, the last team to re-start, never fully recovered and couldn't make it back into the top group of boats. The Italians continued to split from the fleet in an attempt to get back into the game, but the payoff never came, and Luna Rossa helmsman James SPITHILL had to settle for a disappointing seventh place finish. The South African Team Shosholoza also sailed a st rong race here, holding on to fifth position, with +39, Luna Rossa, and LE DEFI trailing the pack.
Valencia Louis Vuitton Act 3 - Fleet Race 4
This time it was Emirates TNZ's Dean Barker who had to re-start, after pushing too aggressively at the start line. It was the first slip-up in several days by the Kiwis, and their rivals were ready to pounce. Team Alinghi and BMW ORACLE picked a course up the left side, while Luna Rossa pushed far to the right. While both sides seemed to pay at different times, in the end it was Alinghi leading at the top mark, with the Americans and Italians charging close behind. The middle course chosen by the Kiwis didn't offer a way back into the race, and K-Challenge, Shosholoza, and LE DEFI led them around the mark. Only +39 were behind at the top mark.
While the fleet split at the leeward gate, it wasn't apparent than either option offered salvation. Luna Rossa hit the right side of the race course again on the second b eat and was able to sneak past BMW ORACLE who sailed up the left, but despite the rest of the fleet splitting sides on the windward leg, positions didn't change dramatically for the rest of the race. Iain Percy's +39 abandoned the race on the second lap of the course, apparently unable to fully sheet in their sails. The Kiwis charged hard at LE DEFI on the final run, desperate for the additional point that would allow them to hold the lead on the points table, but Philippe PRESTI protected well, and held them off.
Valencia Louis Vuitton Act 3 - provisional leaderboard with total points and race finishing position
The Valencia Louis Vuitton Act 3 is scored on a high-point system, with the winner of the race receiving 8 points, second position 7 points, and so on down to the last place boat, which is awarded 1 point.
Team Name: (Total Points) Race # 1 2 3 4
Team Alinghi (27) 4 1 3 1
Emirates Team New Zealand (26) 1 2 1 6
Luna Rossa (20) 3 4 7 2
BMW ORACLE Racing (20) 5 6 2 3
K-Challenge (17) 8 3 4 4
LE DEFI (14) 2 7 8 5
Team Shosholoza (12) 7 5 5 7
+39 (7) 6 8 6 DNF
The Marseille Louis Vuitton Act 1 of the 32nd America's Cup - Valencia, took place from the 5th through to the 11th of September combining Fleet and Match Racing. The BMW ORACLE Racing team was the winner.
The Valencia Louis Vuitton Act 2 of the 32nd America's Cup - Valencia, is a Match Racing event that took place from the 5th - 12th October. Emirates Team New Zealand was the winner.
The Valencia Louis Vuitton Act 3 of the 32nd America's Cup - Valencia, is a Fleet Racing event, from the 14th - 17th of October.
Racing for the 32nd America's Cup - Valencia will continue in 2005 and 2006, with several more Acts in various locations, including Valencia, the Host City of the 32nd America's Cup.
In 2007, a fleet race event will precede the Louis Vuitton Cup, whose winner will then race the Defender, Team Alinghi, in the America's Cup Match in Valencia.